Christian Liberty clinches tie for NAC title
With a 23-3 record, coach Steve Rowland's Christian Liberty girls basketball team has been running in the fast lane all season.
Just listen to what talented Harvest Christian senior Maddy Martin said after the Chargers defeated her visiting Lions 59-51 on Thursday night.
"That's definitely the fastest team we've played all season," said Martin, who definitely showed her skills with a game-high 28 points and 11 rebounds. "They really move the ball up the court. Honestly, we haven't seen a team as fast as them."
CLA fans haven't seen a team like this one.
The Chargers, who have already shattered the school record for wins, are one away (7-0) from their first outright Northeastern Athletic Conference title.
They clinched a least a tie by handing Harvest Christian (14-7, 6-1) its first league loss.
"It's a track meet whenever you play Christian Liberty," said Lions coach Jeremy Burke, who also got 11 points from Missy Fuja. "I was very proud of my team.
"Maddy was great tonight. She is always ready to play and she was really bringing it to a big game tonight."
Sophomore Hannah Mindak brought it for the Chargers with some key rebounding and a career-high 12 points. Joining her in double figures were classmates Audrey Law (18 points) and Julia Wolke (16).
The game was tied 24-24 at half. Rowland wrote one word on the locker room chalk board at intermission -- rebound.
Sure enough, the Chargers had 24 possessions in the third quarter and grabbed a 37-32 lead heading into the final period.
"It was our passing to the post (Mindak) that was the difference," Law said. "We did really well with that and Hannah did a great job scoring the most points she ever has."
The Chargers scored the first 7 points of the second half for a 31-24 lead but the Lions charged back to within 31-30, getting 2 baskets from Martin and one from sophomore Emmy Semerau.
The hosts were nursing a 33-32 lead when Wolke's 3-pointer made it 36-32 and CLA stretched it to 45-33 on a 3-pointer by sophomore Melissa Castro with 5:50 left in the game.
The Lions never got closer than the final score.
Chargers junior point guard Megan Ng scored 7 points and had her usual steady floor game. Sophomore Dayna Mateo came off the bench and hit a key fastbreak layup off an assist from Castro for the final points of the first quarter.
"Our rebounding was not that strong in the first half," said Wolke, who was given the go-ahead to play after suffering a concussion two games ago. "In the second half, we came out stronger on the boards and that really changed the game."
Rowland praised Burke for changing the Lions' fortunes from a year ago.
"Jeremy has done a phenomenal job taking his girls from last year to this," Rowland said. "You've got to give him credit for what he is starting there. He has turned that program around."